The Best Creatine Supplements of 2023: Build Strength and Grow Muscle

Person using creatine


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Creatine is an amino acid-based compound that is produced in the body and found in several animal products such as red meat, milk, and seafood. Its role in the body is to facilitate energy production, particularly during high-intensity activities. To maximize creatine stores in the body, athletes often use the best creatine supplements. As one of the most researched sports supplements, creatine has a solid track record in terms of effectiveness and safety.

Specifically, regularly supplementing with 3-5 grams of creatine daily has been consistently associated with improvements in strength and power output during high-intensity exercise such as resistance training or sprinting. What's more—when paired with resistance exercise creatine supplementation can aid in promoting muscle gains.(1)

To help you in your search for the best creatine for your goals, we consulted with a dietitian to research the best creatine supplements and compile a list of our favorites. Let’s get started!

The Best Creatine - Our Top Picks

Why Trust Us?

The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers are of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming nutritional supplements, we prioritize products that are independently tested by a third party. Additionally, we consulted with ACTIVE's Advisory Board, which includes nutritionists, competitive athletes, coaches, and certified trainers to make certain that the products that we feature are of the highest standards. The ACTIVE Reviews Team is passionate about bringing you products that we trust and would personally use.

Best Overall Creatine – Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

Transparent Labs Creatine HMB

SPECS

  • Dosage: 9.3g (1 scoop) 30 min. post-workout
  • Form: Creatine monohydrate powder
  • Price: $1.6/serving
  • Flavor(s): 11

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With so many creatine supplements available it can be tough to determine which one will best suit your needs. For the best overall creatine, we selected one that provides a well-rounded ingredient panel that is a fitting option for most people looking to supplement with it. Transparent Labs' Creatine with HMB combines the best of both worlds when it comes to muscle-building and sports performance.

This supplement includes a standard 5-gram dose of creatine monohydrate and combines it with 1,500 milligrams of HMB. HMB, short for β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate, is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine that has been shown to prevent muscle breakdown, and in certain cases promote muscle building.(2) As an added bonus, it provides 12.5 mcg (500iu's) of vitamin D, an important nutrient that many athletes are low in. This supplement also includes BioPerine, or black pepper extract, to increase absorption. With nine tasty flavors to choose from, users are sure to find one that they like. Further, it's naturally flavored and doesn't contain any artificial sweeteners. So, whether you are a bodybuilder hitting the dumbbells, or a swimmer doing laps in the pool, Transparent Lab's Creatine with HMB may be worth adding to your supplement regimen.

What We Like

  • Combines creatine monohydrate, HMB, and Vitamin D in one supplement
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Available in 11 flavors, including unflavored

What We Don't Like

  • Black pepper extract may impact the taste
  • Users report shipping issues on occasion

BUY: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB


Best Creatine for Beginners – Gainful Creatine Boost

Gainful Creatine Boost

SPECS

  • Dosage: Varies based on custom dose
  • Form: Powder
  • Price: Varies based on custom blend
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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While many nutrition supplements don't necessarily require personalized dosing protocols, there are some in which it may be beneficial to dose based on your body size and goals. When determining the optimal creatine dose to take, taking your height and weight into consideration may avoid potentially taking too much or too little to be effective. Although creatine is safe, some people experience slight bloating or cramping in the beginning, especially if they take too much at once. Thus, by having your own custom blend made based on your body size, you can help avoid any potential undesirable side effects.

Gainful's Performance Boost consists of a trio of three performance-enhancing supplements: creatine, collagen, and fiber. Collagen helps promote joint health by reducing inflammation, whereas fiber supplements may help improve gut health. Gainful requires you to take a quiz in order to come up with a customized dosing protocol for these three supplements. Once you take the quiz and purchase your custom dose, they'll send you the supplements to start taking. This is the best foolproof approach to getting a custom dosing regimen for creatine, with the added bonus of collagen and fiber.

What We Like

  • Highly individualized dosing standards
  • Also includes collagen powder and fiber supplement
  • Personalized by Registered Dietitians

What We Don't Like

  • Requires you to take a quiz in order to purchase products
  • Can't buy just creatine, must buy all 3 performance boost items
  • Subscription-based ordering

BUY: Gainful Creatine Boost


Best Creatine for Muscle Growth – XWERKS Lift Creatine

XWERKS Lift Creatine

SPECS

  • Dosage: 5g (1 scoop)
  • Form: Micronized creatine powder
  • Price: $1.6/serving
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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When it comes to the top muscle-building supplements, creatine is the highest on the list. Bodybuilders and other strength enthusiasts are well aware that creatine can help boost muscle gains and they have been using it for decades. When it came to choosing the best creatine for muscle growth, we wanted a tried and true supplement, such as XWERKS, that was good for both experienced bodybuilders and recreational gym-goers looking for some gains.

XWERKS Lift Creatine is a simple, no-joke formula that provides five grams of micronized creatine monohydrate per serving. Micronization is a process in which the creatine particles are reduced in size, which helps with mixing and absorption. Users of this brand report noticeable improvements in strength and power within a few weeks of using it. Therefore you may see strength increases in compound movements, such as the squat, and other high-effort exercises.

What We Like

  • Micronized form of creatine for better mixing and absorption
  • Good value for the price
  • Users report noticeable improvements in strength and power
  • Ships for free

What We Don't Like

  • Comes unflavored
  • Some users note that the packaging is cumbersome

BUY: XWERKS Lift Creatine


Best Creatine for Runners – Kaged Muscle Creatine HCl

Kaged Muscle Creatine HCl

SPECS

  • Dosage: 750mg (1 scoop) per serving, 2 servings pre- and-post-workout
  • Form: Creatine HCl powder or capsules
  • Price: $0.33/serving
  • Flavor(s): 2

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At times, creatine gets overlooked by runners because it's mainly seen as a supplement you take to build muscle. While it can help build muscle, it has also been shown to improve short-distance running performance.(3) In addition, creatine supplementation may even help restore glycogen, our body's form of stored carbs, more rapidly following exercise.(4) This is particularly impactful for longer-distance runners who rely on muscle glycogen for energy. When it came to choosing the best creatine for cyclists, we found Kaged Muscle's Creatine HCl to be a perfect option because of the use of the patented form of creatine HCl that requires less of a dose than creatine monohydrate.

This form of creatine is more soluble than creatine monohydrate and is slightly better absorbed. Manufacturers claim that this can result in less negative side effects occasionally associated with creatine use such as bloating and stomach cramps. The label instructs users to take two servings before and after workouts if you are not using any other creatine products. For runners, this would be as easy as adding two scoops to your pre-workout drink and two scoops to your post-workout recovery beverage. As an added bonus, this product is available in unflavored, lemon-lime, and capsulated form.

What We Like

  • Uses creatine HCl requiring a slightly smaller overall dose than monohydrate;
  • Third-party tested by Informed Choice
  • Available in unflavored, lemon-lime, or in caps

What We Don't Like

  • Costs more than creatine monohydrate
  • Requires you to take 4 servings/day if you don't take any other creatine products

BUY: KAGED Muscle Creatine HCl


Best Affordable Creatine – Jacked Factory Creatine

Jacked Factory Creatine

SPECS

  • Dosage: 5g
  • Form: Creatine monohydrate powder
  • Price: $0.47/serving
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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Sports nutrition supplements certainly can add up, especially if you take more than one. Therefore, some people who would like to take creatine may be looking for a more affordable option to still yield the benefits, without draining their wallets. For the best affordable creatine, we chose Jacked Factory's Creatine Monohydrate powder for its affordable price point and uncompromised quality.

Each container of Jacked Factory's Creatine Monohydrate contains 85 five-gram servings for just under $30. Additionally, With a super simple ingredient panel containing just creatine monohydrate powder, you can be sure you are avoiding any unnecessary ingredients. This product is produced in a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility which ensures it's a high-quality product.

What We Like

  • Excellent value
  • Extremely simple ingredient panel
  • Produced in GMP facility

What We Don't Like

  • Only comes in an unflavored version
  • Not third-party tested

BUY: Jacked Factory Creatine


Best Creatine for Post-Workout – Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn®

swolverine-kre-alkalyn

SPECS

  • Dosage: 3g (1 scoop)
  • Form: Creatine phosphate powder
  • Price: $0.9/serving
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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While some people prefer to take creatine prior to working out, there are others who like to include it as a part of their post-workout recovery. Considering that the research remains mixed on when is better it's really a matter of when you prefer to take it. That said, some long-distance athletes such as runners, cyclists, and swimmers may benefit from taking creatine after training to aid in glycogen repletion.(4) Whatever your reasoning may be; if you wish to take your creatine after exercise we found Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn® to be the best creatine for post-workout.

This brand is unique in that it uses Swolverine's patented Kre-Alkalyn® formula which is a pH-corrected form of creatine. This means that negative side effects sometimes associated with creatine monohydrates—such as bloating and water retention—are diminished with this product. In addition, they are manufactured in a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility ensuring top quality and safety for athletes.

What We Like

  • pH-corrected creatine phosphate
  • Produced in GMP-facility
  • Has a longer shelf life of up to 5 years
  • Does not require loading or de-loading phase

What We Don't Like

  • Only comes in unflavored version
  • Expensive

BUY: Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn


Best Creatine for Pre-Workout – KAGED Muscle Pre-Kaged

KAGED Muscle Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout

SPECS

  • Dosage: 28g (1 scoop) 30-45 min. pre-workout
  • Form: Creatine HCl powder
  • Price: $2.25/serving
  • Flavor(s): 7

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It's up for debate whether it's better to take creatine before or after your training session. The research says that it really doesn't matter for most sports.(5) That said, you can choose when it is best for you to supplement with it. Should you choose to supplement with creatine prior to your workout, it may be a good opportunity to include a few other active ingredients as well to boost performance. Therefore when selecting the best creatine for pre-workout use, we selected Kaged Muscle's Pre-Kaged, which includes several other potentially beneficial ingredients as well.

Kaged Muscle's Pre-Kaged Pre-Workout is a full-spectrum pre-workout supplement that includes 1.5 grams of creatine HCl per serving. This form of creatine is slightly better absorbed and is said to dissolve faster in liquids. In addition to creatine, it also includes L-citrulline, BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), beta-alanine, betaine, and caffeine. This combination of ingredients may help boost training performance when taken pre-workout. In addition, this supplement is certified by Informed Sport to be free of banned substances.

What We Like

  • Includes several active ingredients that may enhance exercise performance
  • Available in 7 flavor options
  • Third-party certified by Informed Sport

What We Don't Like

  • Caffeine content (274mg) may be too high for some people
  • Not a good option for those looking for a simple creatine supplement
  • More expensive than many other creatine options

BUY: Kaged Muscle Pre-Kaged


Best Creatine for Vegans – Sunwarrior Active Creatine

Sunwarrior Active Creatine

SPECS

  • Dosage: 5g (1 scoop)
  • Form: Vegan creatine monohydrate powder
  • Price: $0.45/serving
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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Creatine is naturally occurring in certain foods such as red meat, milk, and seafood. Considering that a vegan diet restricts the intake of all animal products, vegan athletes are at an increased risk of having lower creatine stores than those following a traditional diet. Therefore, most vegans would likely benefit from supplementing with creatine, especially if they are active. We chose Sunwarrior's Active Creatine as the best creatine for vegans as it is vegan-certified and provides proper dosing.

With five grams of vegan creatine monohydrate per serving, this product compares well with other creatine supplements on the market. Sunwarrior's Active Creatine offers 60 servings per container at an affordable price point, making it effective and a good value. With sustainability in mind, the packaging is made of post-consumer recycled materials. Whether you're a vegan cyclist or more into strength sports, supplementing with a vegan creatine product such as Sunwarrior's Active Creatine will likely help boost your performance.

What We Like

  • Certified vegan
  • Proper 5g dose of creatine monohydrate per serving
  • Manufactured in a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility

What We Don't Like

  • Only comes in an unflavored version
  • Some users report that the scoop size is inaccurate

BUY: Sunwarrior Active Creatine


Best Creatine Pills – Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules

SPECS

  • Dosage: 2 caps (2.5g)
  • Form: Micronized creatine monohydrate capsules
  • Price: $.52/serving
  • Flavor(s): N/A

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For those who don't enjoy mixing creatine powder with a beverage, creatine also comes in a convenient capsule form. This option is excellent for athletes on the go who don't want to risk spilling creatine powder all over their gym bag. In addition, taking creatine in capsule form leaves the dosing to the manufacturer instead of you having to measure out a proper serving. For some of the best creatine pills on the market, we chose Optimum Nutrition's Micronized Creatine Capsules.

When taken as the package directs each two-capsule serving provides 2.5 grams of creatine monohydrate. While this is on the lower end of the recommended dosing, it will still meet the needs of most people. That said, if you want to make sure you are maximizing your creatine stores, you could safely take four capsules to equal 5 grams per serving. In addition, this product comes in multiple sizes depending on how much you'd like to purchase. Lastly, this creatine comes in a micronized form allowing for better absorption.

What We Like

  • Capsules make measuring out a dose much easier
  • Good for athletes on-the-go
  • Uses creatine monohydrate form
  • Tested for banned substances

What We Don't Like

  • Serving size only provides 2.5g of creatine
  • More expensive than simple powder forms of creatine

BUY: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Capsules


Who Should Take Creatine Supplements?

In general, any athlete looking to maximize their high-intensity exercise performance should consider taking creatine as it's well-researched and safe. That's not to say it's a necessary supplement for everyone, as many high-level athletes do not take it, and they still achieve remarkable feats. Creatine use for adolescents is likely safe though data in this area is still limited, thus use caution for supplementing with those under the age of 18.(6) In addition, people with low meat and seafood intakes, such as vegetarians and vegans, would especially benefit from supplementing with creatine.(7)

How We Chose the Best Creatine Supplements

We considered the following factors when researching the best creatine supplements:

  • Ingredients: The majority of products on the market typically contain just creatine, with the most common form being creatine monohydrate. Some brands add additional ingredients to enhance other areas of sports performance or to add flavors. In most cases, when supplementing with creatine it's best to keep it simple and go with a product that contains a limited number of ingredients.
  • Dosage: The most common dosing protocol is to take 3-5 grams daily. When you first start it will take around 30 days to maximize your creatine stores.
  • Price:The reality is—most people don’t want to spend a fortune on supplements. We aimed to balance price with quality when choosing the best creatine supplements so that you can review affordable, yet quality options.
  • Reviews: We reviewed what customers had to say about different supplement options so that we feel confident bringing you a list of highly-rated supplements.

What to Look for in a Creatine Supplement

When shopping for a creatine supplement there are a few important factors that you should keep in mind to ensure you select the best product to meet your goals.

Type

Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and well-known form of creatine that most people refer to when supplementing. That said, it also comes in several other forms that are occasionally found in supplements. These other common forms of creatine include creatine ethyl ester, creatine HCl, creatine nitrate, and buffered creatine. These alternative forms of creatine are said to potentially promote better absorption, prevent digestive issues, or improve functionality.

How to Take

Traditionally, creatine comes in a powder form that is either mixed with water or your beverage of choice. Over the years, various supplement companies have come up with other ways to get your daily dose of creatine which include: capsules, liquids, and even gummies. Some brands even sell flavored creatine powders that can be mixed with water for better palatability. Consider which way you'd prefer to take it when shopping for creatine.

FAQs About Creatine Supplements


Is it OK to take creatine every day?

Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements available. Considering that it's a naturally occurring compound found in various meat products that we eat, it's generally considered a safe supplement for daily use. That said, you should always buy your creatine from a reputable brand that uses GMP (good manufacturing practices) to ensure ingredient safety.

Should I take creatine before or after a workout?

The data is mixed on whether you should take creatine before or after working out therefore you should take it when you find it most convenient. For example, it may be easiest for some people to include it with a post-workout recovery shake, whereas others may prefer to drink it right before hitting the gym. The only population that may want to consider taking it after exercise is long-distance endurance athletes to aid in glycogen repletion. On days that you don't exercise, you can take it any time of the day.

Is creatine worth using?

Creatine has a well-established track record of providing noticeable improvements in athletic performance, especially during high-intensity activities. In addition, it can help promote muscle gains when paired with regular resistance exercise. Considering its wide body of research and established safety, creatine is often worth supplementing with for serious athletes looking to maximize their performance.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

  1. Wu, S. H., Chen, K. L., Hsu, C., Chen, H. C., Chen, J. Y., Yu, S. Y., & Shiu, Y. J. (2022). Creatine Supplementation for Muscle Growth: A Scoping Review of Randomized Clinical Trials from 2012 to 2021. Nutrients, 14(6), 1255.
  2. Holeček, M. (2017). Beta‐hydroxy‐beta‐methylbutyrate supplementation and skeletal muscle in healthy and muscle‐wasting conditions. Journal of cachexia, sarcopenia and muscle, 8(4), 529-541.
  3. Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and cellular biochemistry, 244(1), 89-94.
  4. Roberts, P. A., Fox, J., Peirce, N., Jones, S. W., Casey, A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (2016). Creatine ingestion augments dietary carbohydrate-mediated muscle glycogen supercompensation during the initial 24 h of recovery following prolonged exhaustive exercise in humans. Amino acids, 48(8), 1831-1842.
  5. Ribeiro, F., Longobardi, I., Perim, P., Duarte, B., Ferreira, P., Gualano, B., ... & Saunders, B. (2021). Timing of Creatine Supplementation around Exercise: A Real Concern?. Nutrients, 13(8), 2844.
  6. Jagim, A. R., & Kerksick, C. M. (2021). Creatine supplementation in children and adolescents. Nutrients, 13(2), 664.
  7. Kaviani, M., Shaw, K., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Benefits of creatine supplementation for vegetarians compared to omnivorous athletes: a systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(9), 3041.

About the Author

Daniel Preiato

Daniel Preiato is a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition and nutrition education. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an avid strength athlete. He uses his background in clinical nutrition to dissect research and help individuals meet their health and fitness goals.

See More from Daniel

Daniel Preiato is a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition and nutrition education. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and an avid strength athlete. He uses his background in clinical nutrition to dissect research and help individuals meet their health and fitness goals.

See More from Daniel

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